From education to employment

Taking a whole college approach to employability, employer engagement and work experience

In March Working Knowledge, sponsored by the Department for Education hosted a forum for senior FE staff and representatives from business. The Opening Doors to Employment with Study Programmes forum focused on the key issues around employability and work experience that colleges need to address to meet Study Programme requirements.

One of these issues is the need to take a whole college approach to employability, employer engagement and work experience. For this theme Working Knowledge invited three speakers to share their thoughts and experience of whole college programmes, the speakers were Howard Jeffrey from Barking and Dagenham College, Alison Kent from City College Southampton and Jenny Craig from Abingdon and Witney College.

They showed that a common way they involve employers with learners across the college as a whole is via live briefs and enterprise competitions. Howard explains that at Barking and Dagenham it is common for local employers to set live project briefs, whilst a lot of learners participate in enterprise and skills competitions. Alison, at City College Southampton, talks about the college’s employer engagement industry weeks, which are arranged by subject area. As part of these weeks they invite employers into the college and hold enterprise competitions. A recent recruitment drive as part of the hospitality industry week was a great success for the college with 40 learners being offered jobs.

Barking and Dagenham College encourage their learners to take jobs with on-site campus companies, this is an especially good approach for learners who may not be confident enough for a part-time job outside of the College. They focus on offering real work and a range of work experience activities for all learners, whilst Jenny at Abingdon and Witney College explains their approach is to ensure the experiences are consistent for all student levels as part of their innovative Futures Programme. A way they do this is by organising big cross-curricula and faculty projects for their learners such as arranging the College opening day, these projects give learners of whatever level the opportunity to work together alongside different college departments and boosts their confidence, organisation and communication skills.

These whole college approaches can result in benefits for both employers and college. Barking and Dagenham College now supplies 10% of Estee Lauder employees. This is through a partnership with the college’s beauty course which involves them coming into the college to hold interviews. Whilst Jenny shared that Abingdon and Witney College’s apprenticeship income has grown by 570% in the last 5 years.

Following the great success of this forum with 98% of delegates saying they felt it was useful and 100% saying they would recommend it to a colleagues, Working Knowledge will be hosting another forum with Aylesbury College. For more information please get in touch.

For more information about the forum including videos of the presentations, slide shows and free downloadable resources for work experience planning please visit our website.

James Lott is the managing director of Working Knowledge, a social enterprise that has over 8 years experience of partnering with the Further and Higher Education sectors to support the education of full time learners through employer engagement via a range of value-added work experience, enterprise and employability services

Related Articles